Aug 24, 2009

Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda - Riviera Maya All Inclusive


















View from the lobby towards the rooms


The Critic got the chance to escape Merida's insufferable heat with a weekend at the so-called Riviera Maya; the hotel was the Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda, which is advertising heavily in Merida and offered a reasonably priced all-inclusive package.

The cantankerous Critic hates all-inclusive hotels because generally speaking, the food sucks. On one occasion, at a Best Day 'Resort', whose advertising slogan was 'exceeding your expectations', the food was all fried, boiled and tasteless.

Well, surprise, the Blue Bay DID exceed the Critic's meager expectations, after the initial shock of being in yet another huge resort with 1000 people.

The Critic had tried to make reservations beforehand via email for one of their specialty, reservation only restaurants, but was informed that this was not possible. So, as expected, upon arrival the Critic was told that there were no spaces available in any of the specialty restaurants except the Carnes (Meats) and only at 6:00 pm.

There was a very limited salad bar and so the Critic ordered his Rib Eye without much hope. But, the steak was very good, without of course delving into La Recova territory, and served with a small potato and a half corn on the cob. A promising start!

Breakfast the next day was buffet style and everything you would expect was there, in quantity and also of good quality. Fresh eggs to order, all manner of ingredients for your favorite omelet and even smoked salmon/lox and cream cheese.

Throughout the day, drinks are available everywhere and you are not limited to cheap 'well' brands; all the good stuff is there from Red Label JW scotch to Herradura Reposado Tequila.

That evening the Critic and Co had reservations for the Italian specialty restaurant and this really was excellent. The highlight, apart from the actual room itself, was the extensive selection of antipasto, olives, cheeses (Pecorino!) and quality cold cuts. The main dishes, pastas all, were excellent as well. The Tiramisu dessert was a let-down; basically a three layer sponge cake.

Service throughout the resort was friendly.

The Critic would recommend this place for a quick 2 day getaway.

Real Feta, green and black olives & other goodies to snack on...


















Aug 16, 2009

Cafe Lucia - Downtown

In the baroque Hotel Santa Lucia, located near (you guessed it) Santa Lucia park, there is a little cafe that the Critic found quite good in previous visits.

On this occasion, the Critic was dismayed to find the Cafe just a tad run down. The service, by a somewhat disheveled but still friendly waiter was good - no complaints there - as was the food which was not only tasty but also fresh and hot. Even the rolls were warm! The Greek salad ordered by the Better Half looked delicious, as did the fettucine with shrimp ordered by a Belgian Waffler.

The run down part was the actual place itself. There were stains on the walls, the air conditioners were visibly filthy, signage was haphazardly hanging behind the bar and all the desserts in the dessert fridge were from Costco. None of this would be particularly upsetting except for the fact that when the hotel and restaurant opened, they were both exquisitely presented with an eye to every last detail. There is no way that waiter would have been sporting that bed-head and definitely Dianne Krall singing jazz standards would not have been competing with the TV over the bar showing the archetypal Mexican western complete with gesturing priests, scurrying nuns, self-esteem challenged little boys, pistol waving facial haired cowboys and the crowning moment; the macho vaquero singing atop his horse in the wilderness.

The Critic wonders if there has been a change of ownership at this hotel? The original owners were/are much too finicky to accept this, one would think. Enjoy the photos!
  • Sopa de Lima
  • Greek Salad
  • Shrimp Pasta

















Aug 13, 2009

El Postrecito - Desserts n Coffees

In the Colonia Mexico, there is a relatively new dessert place called El Postrecito (the little dessert) run by a talented Yuca who lived in Quebec. Their coffee is great, their desserts are really delicious.

Short verdict: Go.

Have their melt in your mouth truffles or their signature Canadian dessert; a bread pudding baked with maple syrup or something to that effect.

A great option after eating fishy things at nearby Campay Sushi.

Aug 6, 2009

Wok To Walk Altabrisa Almost Open



















Tonight the Better Half and the Casual Restaurant Critic visited Wok to Walk, mentioned in the last post as coming into an already crowded placita called Fontana, across from the IMSS mega-hospital.

The restaurant is in the throes of opening, so there is still plenty of empty space behind the counter, there is no glass separating the flaming wok area from the public and the general feeling is that of a soft opening.

The cash register, however, is working!

The Critic and his BH had visited Wok to Walk before - the Montejo location - so knew the drill: you pick your rice or noodle, your toppings or goodies to be stir fried and your favorite sauce. They are then cooked up for you on the spot in giant woks with occasional bursts of flame flashing out to make it more showy.























Kind of like a teppan yaki restaurant except without the Japanese accent or the jokes or the knife acrobatics. OK, maybe not like a teppan yaki restaurant.

On this occasion the Critic ordered rice noodles with tofu, thai chicken, green pepper while the Better Half ordered arroz de trigo which prompted a reaction from the Critic who was surprised that there even was such an animal. Arroz de trigo means wheat rice, which is of course, not any rice that the Critic has seen in Superama lately. The Spanish menu says Arroz Integral which means brown rice, but apparently in the translation this became wheat rice. As in whole wheat perhaps? Also the green pepper mentioned above was off the English menu; the Spanish menu says pimiento, which is a red bell pepper and which is what was actually tucked in amongst the rice noodles. The noodles were ordered with the curry n coconut sauce; the rice with the Saigon sauce. Both dishes were excellent, piping hot, tasty and served in the little orange Chinese take-out boxes that have come to characterize Wok to Walk. Chopsticks were available too. And not the cheap kind either.

The decor and seating is of the minimalist style and there are similar seating options outside as well. Service was friendly enough from the young man who took the order; there were a lot of other people hanging around both outside and in: the Critic assumes these are trainees.

Would the Critic return? Probably.

Aug 3, 2009

Il Piattino Italian Restaurant - Altabrisa, Merida


















The Better Half and the Critic had lunch at Il Piattino today. Nothing new about that, it's been done before but the Critic noted that he hadn't written about previous visits.

Il Piattino is a place for a casual pasta, panini or salad. Prices are cheap and the location is right across from the white elephant Hospital de Especialidades, run by the IMSS (say no more) in that new, fashionable part of town called Altabrisa.

Upon entering the restaurant, the Critic and his Better Half bumped into the only waiter on duty, who was so absorbed with counting the change on a bill he was returning to a table, that he was unable to acknowledge in any way the presence of two more guests that he would be serving that day. Off to a good start!

Today, a salad and a panini were ordered. The salad, a Caesar that actually looks like a Caesar unlike the awfully original Trotters' version, came out almost immediately, while the panini took an eternity during which time the Critic was able to check multiple email accounts on his cell phone thanks to free wifi that the restaurant offers. The bathroom is an un-air conditioned cubbyhole, hot, not very clean and featuring an open hole for an air duct high up on the wall that a Komodo dragon sized lizard could crawl through at night. Needless to say the Better Half finished her salad eons before the Critics' food was brought, making for some interesting speculation as to what was causing the delay. Perhaps they had to go to Italy (or Costco) for more prosciutto? It was decided, once the plate arrived, that it was the fault of the french fries; which probably took a while to get well, fried.

When the time came for the bill, the Critic went directly to the cashier, which caused a little confusion, since the generally accepted procedure is to get the bill from the waiter, but time was a factor and the Critic wanted/needed to leave. The cashier hummed and hawed a bit, and of course her confusion was understandable, since the Critics' was the ONLY table left in the restaurant and it must have been challenging to locate la cuenta.

The bill came to 150 pesos with one bottle of water and the aforementioned food items. The salad was passable, the sandwich as well, but this is by no means a destination to be visited at any cost.

There will be however, a new Wok to Walk in this same plaza that already has El Viejo Molino pulling in crowds. Stay tuned!